New study shows allowing the sea back in could help UK meet climate goals - Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Leading up to the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP 26), newly published research from Manchester Metropolitan University has found that one restored coastal saltmarsh in the UK stores as much carbon over four years as just over one million new trees grown for ten years.

The study’s authors found that the 250 hectare (c. 467 football pitches) restored saltmarsh at WWT Steart Marshes in Somerset:

Buried organic carbon at a rate of over 19 tonnes per hectare per year, resulting in a total of over 18,000 tonnes of carbon (67,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide) being buried at the site over the four year study period

This is equivalent to

The rate at which carbon was stored was 18 times higher than the rate currently being used to estimate the carbon storage potential of saltmarsh in the UK

The study measures one saltmarsh, but the potential to scale up this habitat’s exceptional carbon storage potential is significant. A 2019 government commissioned report identified 22,000 hectares of land around the UK coast that could be restored to saltmarsh. If this happened, applying today’s results, at the top end, over 425,000 tonnes of carbon could be trapped every year instead of being released back into the atmosphere – a significant step towards helping reach net zero targets by 2050.

Tim McGrath, Head of Project Development for Nature-Based Solutions at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) said: “Before this study we didn’t fully appreciate just how well certain saltmarshes with the right conditions like Steart Marshes can perform in terms of storing carbon. These exceptional findings could indicate that the carbon storage potential of restoring saltmarsh around the UK coast has been underestimated. Today’s study sends a clear message to policy makers that creating saltmarsh shows huge promise as a significant tool in the fight against climate change.”

Posted on: 21 October 2021

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